If you've ever found yourself unsure of how to choose colors for outdoor fabric and furniture, try this simple trick: Use the color wheel. It's a surefire, age-old way to determine what colors work best with each other. One color wheel rule is to choose complementary colors, or those directly across from each other. Here, that makes for a bold color statement with orange and turquoise; bright white umbrellas and accents in the patterning keeps the collection from feeling overwhelming.
As we continue to expand our living spaces into the outdoors, one of the benefits has been a wider availability of indoorlike furniture and fabrics. Case in point: The wickerlike sofa and chair grouping in this cozy covered porch area. The outdoor fireplace offers an organizing focal point, but the low-slung proportions of the furniture supply a unique profile. Although bright white might seem like an unusual outdoor furniture choice, heavy-duty slipcovers and washable fabrics make these cushions easy to wear and wash. In keeping with the slightly exaggerated profile of the furniture, side and coffee tables supply a stocky yet streamlined silhouette, too.
For some homeowners, their indoor and outdoor spaces are less an exercise in one particular style than they are a reflection of their distinct personality and quirks—and that goes for decks, patios, and porches. For example, furniture sets and single color schemes used to be de rigueur, but today's homeowners embrace more eclecticism and whimsy. Take this traditional front porch: Cottage-style pillows in a floral print accent the chairs, while further accent comes from a traditional striped pattern underfoot. Knickknacks pick up a few of the tones—here, robin's egg blue—but vintage cast-offs—containers, a table—round out the comfy space.
Bold-color pieces are wonderful for establishing a focal point or defining different areas in an outdoor space. But left to themselves, they can overpower even a very large area. One decorating trick is to make sure to balance bright hues with equal amounts of light, neutral, or white pieces. Here, airy window treatments (used to establish a border for the space and shut out sunlight) offer just a hint of color, while white walls and ceiling and neutral flooring offer good counterpoints to the fun collection of fuchsia, orange, yellow, turquoise, and green in the seating area.
Many gardens offer a riotous blend of color and texture; in those spaces it's often good decorating practice to provide a soothing stop-over for the eye and mind with furniture and fabrics. Case in point: this comfortable seating arrangement, just off an expansive outdoor kitchen. Weathered-teak chairs and toned-down red cushions blend into the background so the decorative screening and interplay of textures—stone, wood, grass, plants, pond—can take center stage.
If you've already got outdoor furniture that you're happy with, a quick way to update the look is to add focal-point accents or ornaments. They're typically much more affordable than furniture, and with smart shopping, you can change your outdoor space's style nearly every season. Towering candelabras or vases—both shown here—are great for adding height and texture to dining or side tables. Distinctive fabrics, including simple linen table runners, can supply color or pattern, and throw pillows help you change your color scheme from year to year.
Colors that sit next to each other on the color wheel are adjacent, and those pairings are excellent for creating an instant decorating scheme for your outdoor spaces. To create a laid-back style that still showcases deft color interplay, consider tones that are lighter, such as this mix of greens and blues. Black is also a good accent and grounding color for these outdoor spaces, providing a solid focal point with the rug and visual variety with patterned pillows.
Often with contemporary outdoor spaces, it's less important that outdoor furniture and fabrics stand out. In fact, a goal of more streamlined exterior decorating schemes is to create an overall aesthetic that flows seamlessly from one point to another to another. If that's your goal, then neutrals and low-slung profiles are a great way to achieve it. Here, warm beige and bright white slipcovers are the focus; in place of fussy accents, a few dark gray throw pillows pick up on the tones found in exterior sculpture pieces.
Symmetry is an oft-used design principle, and for good reason: It's pleasing to the eye, complementary to a variety of styles, and fairly easy to implement. Take this traditional covered patio: Two metal sofas, classic neutral stripes for pattern, and a hardworking, textural rug underfoot supply both function and beauty. The warm beige appears in several spots—rug, stools, artwork above the fireplace—and distinctive light fixtures offer visual variety overhead.
Tried-and-true decorating schemes might hold appeal for your outdoor schemes, but for other homeowners, a whatever-goes attitude feels right at home. When the rest of the home demonstrates that same style sensibility, that aesthetic works well for outdoor spaces. Take this casual space: A cluster of paper lanterns in bright hues dresses up the vaulted ceiling, while a mishmash of patterns feels at home on the daybed and vintage chairs.
Stripped-down exterior facades call for stripped-down outdoor living spaces. There are other ways to add texture and pattern without going overboard on colors. Here, the horizontal patterning on the brick offers a basis for furniture selection—a simple teak table and chairs. Side tables pick up on metal found in the rough-hewn door, while a mix of materials and finishes in containers offers subtle visual interest.
Just as using contrasting colors can establish an unexpected decorating scheme, so, too, can the opposition of dark and light. Take this airy, slightly Southwest-inspired covered patio. An oversize rug grounds the large expanses of light-color wall space. Shapes, too, are good organizing elements: Gentle curves in the arms of the furniture are a play off the nature-inspired images found in the rug and on the pillows.
Brick, wood, metal: They are all elements often used for hardscaping or paved surfaces outside. And while many of them are used to establish geometric shapes and hard edges, they can also stand in for furniture and fabrics to create movement and curves in patio spaces. Here, a border serves several different functions. In addition to outlining the dining area, it also addresses the yard's slight slope and supplies a spot for additional seating. A neutral grouping of patio furniture, with a transitional, fit-anywhere profile, fits neatly into the neutral palette.
One simple way to create a pleasing exterior living space is to choose furniture and fabric that reflects the style and color of the exterior of your home. For example, the clean lines of a contemporary residence benefit from an unadorned deck as well as strong geometric shapes in the furniture. Containers, too, are used to define the deck's edges as well as providing a finishing touch to the seating area.
Are your flowerbeds focused on a particular color scheme? That's a great jumping-off point for decorating your exterior spaces. For starters, pick three colors—one main color and two as accents. Green in the cushions appears again in the subtle patterning on the purple pillows, while orange offers bright pops on the tabletops and in table accents. In place of furniture and fabric, plants offer lovely texture as well as definition to the edges of the patio.